Lotus Emira review
"The Lotus Emira looks and performs like a small supercar, but it’s also comfortable and usable"
- Comfortable and great fun to drive
- Sporty looks
- Pleasant interior
- Not as exciting as previous Lotus cars
- Gear change could be better
- Running costs can be high
The Lotus Emira is an all-new model for the British marque. It looks like a supercar, but it’s smaller than an Audi R8 and it uses a V6 engine, so it’s actually closer in size, performance and price to a Porsche Cayman.
As well as the six-cylinder-engined launch model, a four-cylinder version will come later with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The V6 engine is a Toyota unit and has been used in many previous Lotus models, while the other engine is a 2.0-litre turbo petrol from the Mercedes-AMG A45.
We’ve driven the 3.5-litre V6 model, which is available with a manual or automatic gearbox. It gets from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds thanks to the supercharged motor putting out 400bhp and 420Nm of torque.
The Emira weighs in at 1,458kg, which is quite a bit more than you might expect of a Lotus, given the brand’s motto was ‘Simplify, then add lightness’. In fact the Emira appears to go against that ethos because it has added quite a bit of complexity and weight to help the car compete with the likes of the Cayman. Yet we can’t hold it against the Emira because it means it’s more usable and comfortable than any previous model.
Comforts such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a 10.25-inch touchscreen, premium materials and a quality stereo system mean that the Emira is a much more modern and competitive sports car than the more hardcore models in the Lotus range such as the Exige.
You can choose from two trim levels – Touring and Sport – which have different suspension set-ups. Owners who want something a bit more comfortable and usable will pick the Touring version, while keen drivers who want the ultimate version can pick the Sport model.
We tested the Sport model, and even that was very comfortable and smooth on bumpy British roads, so the Touring version should be a great option for daily driving. However, we found that the Emira has lost the sharp responses found in previous models such as the Evora and Exige, so it’s not quite as exciting.
It’s still a fantastic sports car that is a genuine alternative to a Porsche Cayman or Alpine A110. It looks fantastic, is more civilised than we expected and the engine is powerful and sounds great. However, you’d still have to be free from normal responsibilities to choose one as an everyday car because it’s not very practical and is quite expensive to buy and run.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Emira is a high-performance sports car, so you would be right to expect running costs in line with that. Fuel economy data hasn’t been released yet, but we expect somewhere under 30mpg for the V6 model because it has CO2 emissions of 243g/km and previous Lotus cars with this engine have similar emissions and economy.
This does mean high road tax, though: the car costs more than £40,000 so there’s a £355 surcharge for new owners. Servicing costs are variable, although we expect reasonable costs for parts because it uses a reliable Toyota engine.
One area Lotus models are usually very strong in is depreciation. Previous models have traditionally held their values very well, so you won’t lose much cash over a typical ownership period, especially because the current used market is strong and enthusiast cars such as the Emira are sought after. It’ll be rarer than a Cayman, too, which keeps values strong.
Engines, drive & performance
The only version of the Emira we’ve tested so far is the 3.5-litre V6 model with a manual gearbox. The engine is supercharged and produces 400bhp and 420Nm of torque, so performance is excellent: 0-62mph takes 4.3 seconds. The automatic model takes 4.2 seconds and top speed of both is 180mph.
The V6 engine is sourced from Toyota and it’s a brilliant motor that’s both reliable and exciting. It sounds great and revs sweetly, so it’s a shame the gear shift in the model we tried was a bit disappointing. The auto ’box is available as an option while the upcoming four-cylinder version will have a dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard.
The Emira isn’t quite as exciting as a Porsche Cayman GTS, though. The engine isn’t as ferocious and it doesn’t have the slick gearbox or perfect steering feel you get in the Cayman, which is a surprise because Lotus has been known for its superb steering for decades. We found that the Emira’s steering is merely okay.
Still, it has loads of grip and is really comfortable, even over bumpy roads. It’s quieter and smoother than a Cayman, so while you might expect a Lotus sports car to feel raw and rough, it’s actually the opposite and is easily usable as an everyday car. There are Touring and Sport suspension options, the latter offering a slightly more firm set-up if you want it.
Interior & comfort
The Lotus Emira was designed from the outset to be a more comfortable, usable and less hardcore sports car. It has come at the cost of a bit of handling prowess and track day fun, but if you are looking for a fast, fun sports car to drive regularly then it will really fit the bill.
It’s not just about the well-judged suspension that irons out bumps in the road, because the Emira has a more luxurious interior than any previous Lotus and it even has plenty of modern tech. There’s a large infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a premium stereo system on the First Edition model, plus Bluetooth, heated seats and more.
Climate control, cruise control, keyless go, selectable drive modes, USB sockets, DAB radio and leather and Alcantara upholstery are all included. The options list includes tinted rear windows, coloured brake calipers, parking sensors, a reversing camera, auto windscreen wipers and auto-dimming mirrors. These are all standard on the First Edition model and there’s a choice of Touring or Sport suspension.
Practicality & boot space
The Emria is built differently to previous Lotus models, so there’s loads of room in the cabin - even for tall drivers - and it should be easier to get into and out of. It also feels more airy than a Cayman inside.
There’s a small boot behind the engine, which is mid-mounted ahead of the rear wheels (although the heat from the engine makes this luggage spot less than ideal for cakes or ice cream). The boot is able to accommodate a set of golf clubs or a flight case, according to Lotus, and the brand quotes the total space for luggage - including the space behind the seats - as 359 litres.
This doesn’t mean it’s as practical as a supermini with less overall space, though, because the Lotus is still a sports car and the storage spaces are rather piecemeal. However, there are some storage nets in the boot and in the passenger footwell to make sure smaller items don’t roll about as you enjoy the car’s sharp handling.
Interior storage includes two cupholders in the centre console as well as a tray below the gear selector in automatic models and large door bins that can take a 500ml bottle, according to Lotus. There’s a glovebox and a spot for your phone, too.
Reliability & safety
The Emira is a totally new model and it’s a step forward from the Lotus Evora and Exige in terms of build quality. The interior is made using higher-quality materials and feels like it’s been put together as well as you would expect of an expensive sports car such as this. It’s one area where we felt previous models needed to improve, which is good to see.
More importantly, the V6 engine is a Toyota unit, which means it’s reliable, even with Lotus’s supercharger set-up. Parts are easy enough to get, don’t cost much and since the engine has been used in a variety of other cars, there are plenty of specialist mechanics who know it inside out.
The upcoming four-cylinder-engined Emiral uses an engine sourced from Mercedes, although it’s a more highly-strung motor and we’ll have to wait a while for reliability data.
The lightweight but strong structure and high-quality suspension, brakes and tyres mean that the Lotus should be a safe sports car, but it’s unlikely we’ll see any crash results from Euro NCAP because it’s such a low-volume sports car.